Welcome to Pittsburgh! What do you want to do first? Not sure yet? Well what about plans for tomorrow? …Well you still have time to decide… Where are you staying? You haven't booked a hotel yet?!?!
Three neighborhoods. One shared vision.
How best to talk about the East End neighborhoods of Friendship, Garfield and East Liberty? Each has their own unique story to tell but, in the end, the same thread of rebirth and rejuvenation is what ties these neighborhoods inextricably together.
Primarily residential, Friendship has focused on their revitalizing their unique housing. Just north of them in Garfield, white flight has been combatted by rehabilitating properties and bringing back small business. East Liberty, bordering both aforementioned neighborhoods, has emerged victorious from failed urban renewal and become a hub for global businesses, local startups, a variety of shopping and luxury hotels and apartments.
Header photo credit: @7521photography on Instagram
To me, two businesses are emblematic this change. One, Google's office in Bakery Square helped put this area on the map as a tech-forward, growing neighborhood. That tech that makes your device unlock with your face? Designed right here. The super fun Sky Map App I use on clear nights to identify planets and constellations? Designed right here. Who knows what's next at this growing tech hub but, whatever it is, it's sure to become a product or software you can't live without in the near future.
Headquartered in East Liberty, the language learning App Duolingo has been growing at a remarkable pace. They're now a publicly-traded company, and recently opened a second HQ in the same neighborhood, along with a restaurant (more info on that below) and social impact focus.
And these two businesses are just the beginning, with incubators, co-working spaces and more making these neighborhoods even more attractive to businesses of all sizes, along with the uptick in housing, shopping and more needed to sustain their growth. With that in mind, let's check out everything there is to do in these three neighborhoods on the move.
Located on Penn Ave, the main thoroughfare through East Liberty, Kelly Strayhorn Theater is more than just a venue; it's a playground of imagination, a stage where art comes alive and dances its heart out. From jaw-dropping contemporary performances to thought-provoking cultural exhibitions, this theater is the city's ultimate canvas for expression. Named for Pittsburgh natives Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn, what makes the Kelly Strayhorn Theater so special is its unwavering commitment to inclusivity, welcoming artists and audiences from all walks of life to join the dance party.
Creativity takes forms both molten and magnificent at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in Friendship. Whether you're an expert or just looking to try your hand at a new, mesmerizing craft, the Pittsburgh Glass Center welcomes all with open arms and fiery furnaces. Discover the enchanting world of glass as it transforms from raw material into stunning works of art, from delicate glassware to breathtaking sculptures through classes, youth programs, open houses and a rotating series of special exhibits.
Technology meets tastebuds at this former Nabisco factory turned into a paradise for startups, foodies and fashionistas with a variety of upscale boutiques, hotspot dining options and amenity-filled coworking spaces. You're sure to be inspired with innovative Bakery Square tenants that include Google, Spaces., Compass, Philips and more companies that lead the way in innovation. This lively square and its charming mix of offices, shops and green spaces are the lifeblood of the East Liberty neighborhood.
While most of East Liberty is looking forward to a tech dominated future, the Kelso Museum of Near Eastern Archaeology harkens back to the past with exhibits focusing on life in ancient times of modern day Israel, West Bank and Jordan. Admission is free to the public, and the museum also hosts a number of special events throughout the year featuring prominent archaeologists and their important work. Succeed in the future by understanding where we came from; you can do it all in this neighborhood!
Cats + community = the purr-fect combination. Black Cat Market, Garfield's resident cat cafe has helped more than 900 furry friends find their forever home! Make an appointment and visit their cat room to see and snuggle every lovable cat up for adoption. If you're not a local, it's okay to just want to hang out with the cats to relax, too!
Right at the intersection of all three neighborhoods sits Spork, the James Beard nominated, chef-owned restaurant that tops the list of places to eat in Pittsburgh year after year. Here, seasonal ingredients combine with East-meets-West fusion to create tantalizing favorites from berbere spiced gulf prawns and yakitori grilled mushroom toast small plates to eggplant rollatini and koji rye fried chicken entrees that all taste even better than the stunning Instagram photo they're presented as.
His restaurants fill Downtown and the Strip District with flavor, but in the Garfield neighborhood, Fish Nor Fowl is the perfect creation of chef Richard DeShantz. The dining room (and expansive patio during warmer months) blend rustic charm with a chic contemporary feel, while their menu transports you to Italy with upscale versions of classic dishes, fresh pastas and an extensive wine list and trendy cocktails like sbagliato and negroni.
Delicious cajun food and fresh oysters in Pittsburgh? Abso-shuckin'-lutely. This East Liberty stop will have you set sail for oceanic indulgences without ever leaving our urban jungle. Crack, peel and shuck your favorites at Muddy Waters - you can order individual oysters, get a selection of east or west coast favorites or grab a giant seafood tower that also contains shrimp, crab and lobster tail.
Before every menu had some variation of hot chicken on the menu, Bird on the Run was the trendsetting and the only place you could find it outside of Nashville. Fun fact, it's still my favorite chicken sandwich by far in the city. Pick your sandwich, pick your spice level (1 is great for beginners but if you like spice, DAMN HOT at spice level 3 is magical) and cool off between bites with a waffle fry or sip from your Turner's carton of iced tea.
As Duolingo has continued to expand in East Liberty, the language-learning App has branched out from tech into cuisine with the opening of Duo's Taqueria! Just take a whiff when you enter; that's the aromas of fresh tortillas being made using a 3,000 year old process. These are then loaded with exciting combos like their suadero (brisket), lengua (tongue) and hongos fritos (oyster mushrooms). By the way, use the App and follow the hints around the restaurant itself to see how you can save money and earn free tacos by practicing your Spanish.
With ivy swirling down from above the bar, chic couches and giant artwork adorning every wall, Margaux is the IT place to be for coffee in the mornings and cocktails in the evenings, when croque monsieurs and champagne cocktails give way to chorizo croquettes and boilermakers. You'll see everyone soaking in the perfectly cultivated ambiance of Margaux, with workers on laptops here during the day and after-work get togethers and date nights happening in lockstep.
Yeah, the beer is phenomenal (Jen's Porter is one of my favorite dark beers I drink throughout the year). But you'll come back to Two Frays in Garfield because everyone from the owners to the clientele are just so warm and inviting, it's the only place you'll want to head for a night out. Browse their Instagram for special events, trivia nights, food trucks lists and more!
Veteran owned Friendship Perk & Brew has been named both Bloomfield's and Friendship's favorite coffee stop for multiple years, and one visit is all you need to see why. Exposed brick, fireplaces and rustic tables instantly relax you, with fresh brewed coffee and sweet treats for daytime visitors and draft beer, bottles and bar food snacks available later in the day! Come join this friendly community hub any time you're in the neighborhood.
A love of birds, caffeine and sustainability led to the creation of Redstart Roasters, a café just as focused on making a delicious cup of Joe as protecting bird habitats. Partnered with Pittsburgh's own National Aviary as well as bird-friendly groups worldwide, each bird-friendly brew features a picture of a bird you'll be protecting with your purchase as well as info on how this bean was sustainably produced.
With so much to see and do in East Liberty, Garfield and Friendship, you're going to need multiple days to experience it all. Luckily, there's three ideal places to stay nearby. Stay within walking distance to all of the amenities of Bakery Square at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott. Enjoy the plush boutique amenities and a gorgeous lookout over East Liberty at Hotel Indigo. Or stay in the tech-enabled apartments of The Maverick by Kasa for a one-of-a-kind stay in Pittsburgh.
No matter where you choose to stay, you'll soon be rested up and ready for another day exploring these three iconic neighborhoods.